Image of a paddleboarder in commpletely different conditions: Vasily Fedosenko
Photo of paddleboarder in very different circumstances: Vasily Fedosenko

Found alive! Young paddleboarder missing off Algarve beach is rescued

Érika Vicente saved by passing merchant ship

The 17-year-old girl missing at sea on a paddleboard, off Praia do Coelho, Vila Real do Santo António, Algarve, has been found alive, “dozens of miles from where she went missing”.

News came in with only scant details early on Sunday evening.

The youngster, from Azeitão (Setúbal district), was ‘rescued at 5.30pm’ by a passing merchant vessel.

Named in early reports simply as Érika, she was suffering from “elevated hypothermia”, and transported by helicopter from the ship straight to Faro Hospital.

In all, Érika had been missing for a little over 20 hours. This is one of those rare miracles at sea.

As further details came in it transpired that Érika endured her ordeal in just a bikini.

“She is very fragile”, ports captain João Afonso Martins told journalists shortly after the rescue. “She was only wearing a bikini through a night with a lot of wind and cold, and then a whole day in the sun…”

The teen was lucid when she was found; able to give her name and where she was from, Martins added.

Asked about the reaction of her family, he said: “I would say it is the reaction of a father who sees his daughter born for the second time”.

Érika was spotted by MSC Reef (on its way to Tangier, Morocco) around 25 nautical miles south of VRSA (that is roughly 46 kms). The ship was well outside the main search area, explained reports last night, as authorities had not calculated she could have travelled so far from the coast.

João Afonso Martins admitted he had been extremely worried about the possibility of another night of searches. Thus Érika’s discovery before the sun went down was exactly what everyone had been praying for.

Martins took the occasion to restress the issues of taking to the sea before the summer arrives.

“This is still a winter sea”, he said. “With currents. We are not yet in summer. The sea is not for games” (meaning people taking any chances).

Within a few hours of being treated at Faro Hospital, Érika (or Kika as she is called by her family) was described as “stable”, a “little confused” but undeniably a ‘warrior’. Disappearances at sea with happy endings like these are few and far between.

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